• An Olympic gold medallist at Rio 2016, Luan is eyeing a place at Russia 2018
  • The Gremio midfielder made his full international debut a few months ago
  • All the latest on Brazil, who will start among the favourites in Russia

When Luan turned 18, his sport of choice was futsal and thoughts of ever making a living from football were far from his mind. Yet, football was where his future lay, and it was not long after he began devoting his energies to it, that Gremio’s scouts came calling.

“I knew it was the chance of a lifetime and I seized it,” said the Brazilian midfielder in an interview with FIFA.com during the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics, a competition he has very good reason to remember, after helping Brazil climb to the top of the podium. “The Olympics were very special because Brazil had never won gold before.”

If 2016 was a golden year in Luan’s career, then 2017 was every bit as good, one in which he helped Gremio win the Copa Libertadores title and also collected the award for the tournament’s most valuable player. Later that year came a runners-up medal at the FIFA Club World Cup and, just to round it all off, a debut senior cap for his country.

The year had begun with Luan pulling on the famous yellow jersey against Colombia in a match featuring home-based players only. But in August came the moment he had been waiting for, as he won his first full cap, in a 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ qualifier against Ecuador at the Arena do Gremio, with Brazil having already made sure of their place at the world finals.

“It was special to play at home in my stadium,” said Luan, describing his feelings on making his debut in front of his own fans. “I don’t think it could have been more perfect. It was a unique feeling for me. Playing for your country is a dream come true for any player. It’s such a different experience. I’ve always had that desire and I’m going to do as well as I can for Gremio, so that I’m ready to keep taking opportunities when they arise.”

The first of those opportunities could come when Brazil coach Tite names his squad for the March friendlies against Russia and Germany. Since taking on the job, Tite has shown great faith in his Olympic gold medallists. But does Luan see himself on the final 23-man list for Russia 2018?

“As Tite says, there’s always an opportunity,” he replied, a broad smile on his face. “I want to do it well and play well, so I can pass that final test. I’d like to have the chance to experience what a World Cup is all about, but all I can do until that happens is work hard and work well. I’ll be so happy if the opportunity does come my way.”

The five-time world champions will arrive in Russia full of confidence after their storming run in South American World Cup qualifying. Tite has fashioned a solid-looking side, in which Neymar, Gabriel Jesus, Coutinho and Co provide plenty of magic.

Luan, for one, is not shy about proclaiming their status as favourites: “Look at what happened in the qualifiers. Brazil played so well, it’s made us one of the favourites. I think we’ve got every chance of winning the Trophy.”

Currently, the leading player in the Brazilian league, Luan has four short months in which to prove that he deserves a place in the Seleção squad. Aware that he has a unique opportunity before him, he has no intention of letting it pass him by.

“Can you imagine it?” he said. “World champions? The spirit in the team is amazing. We’re all friends. With all the work we’ve put in so far, it’s a great chance for us.”

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